As motorcycle riders, being exposed to the elements means we’ve got to protect ourselves against them. We do that with proper gear and with sunscreen. High strength sun protective products contain substances which can create stains on priceless leather motorcycle gear right down to our gloves, our tank bags and cargo carriers. Leather will absorb almost anything it touches and modern-day textiles used in motorcycle gear nearly the same effect. As is the case with sunscreen where no matter how well we try, we can’t help getting it on our gear.
On black, these stains seem white where on lighter tones, appear rust or orange-ish. This is due to the sunblock ingredients, namely – azobenzene. This substance has a chemical reaction with iron particles that are found in water that causes, essentially, rust stains. azobenzene also reacts with boron trifluoride to form a stable crystalline complex that is highly fluorescent under UV irradiation and hence the blueish-whitish stain on leather.
Any of the sunscreen you use containing this effective substance will show remnants but being that sunscreen is greasy, it tends to absorb into anything it touches. Just as simple as applying to your skin and then fastening your tank bag or jacket causes the substance to rub off on your gear.
Now that we’re clear on the culprit, here are some different solutions.
And if you’ll be readying your gear for winter storage, it is best to attack these stains before the next season begins.
- Clean Magic Eraser: Just get it wet and do one quick wipe should be all it takes. They’re strong so avoid using pressure or rubbing the heck out of the stained area.
- Zymol Leather Cleaner (spray) spray it on and clean it with a cloth.
- Griots Garage Interior Cleaner: Will get the sunblock off the leather with very minimal effort. Came right out.
- Leatherique Pristine Clean: for leather, vinyl, plastic, rubber trim, canvas tops, use soft brush to scrub grain, cleans and lightly conditions in one step
- Lexol for cleaning leather – and it has been proven to remove sunscreen stains.
- Auto Refreshener No. 4 car leather conditioner is a natural leather cleaner and leather conditioner with added natural UV Protection designed to clean, condition and protect your car’s leather or vinyl interior!
- Chamberlain’s Straight Cleaner No. 2 leather cleaner is an alcohol-based leather cleaner that permeates leather with natural, non-alkaline cleaning agents and alcohols, gently removing substances that damage leather. Straight Cleaner contains no saddle soaps, solvents or synthetic chemicals.
- Mothers Leather Cleaner – contains a pH-balanced formula that safely lifts impregnated dirt, grime and stains from your precious leather accessories
Always read the instructions on the product label and then generally as with all leather treatments, test on a small area of your item first. Choose a discreet area to test – your jacket’s underarm, for example. No two leather pieces are the same. There are infinite varieties of leather out there and infinite ways they can be tanned, cut, dyed, finished, or dressed. Your leather is unique, and it will require unique care.
- Dab a small amount of your chosen product (unless product advises otherwise); generally a teaspoon up to a tablespoon, depending on the size of the stain to the affected stained area.
- Always use a clean rag, sponge or paper towel and allow it to sit for about 15 minutes before wiping.
- After spot treated, allow the item to dry in a cool, clean area away from sunlight and direct heat.
- Follow up and finish, once dry, with deep cleaners with leather conditioner. The cleaners you use often include treatments but if not, can take some of the fabrics natural oils or components.
TIP *stay away from powerful laundry stain removers containing chlorine and oxygenated bleaches.
Avoiding Future Sunscreen Stains in Future
Protecting your sun exposure is certainly more valuable than stains on your motorcycle gear or items – avoiding sunscreen really isn’t an option. Therefore to minimise future stains:
- Wash hands after application; use a handy wipe immediately afterward
- Use Adventuress towelettes for application. Your hands never come in contact with the lotion.
It’s worth noting that the spray-on sunscreens are especially prone to cause staining, since you have less control over where they end up. The lotion version is easier to keep away from your gear. Of course, the best option is to swap out your current sunscreen for one that is azobenzone-free.